This paper examined the tendency of strategic decision makers in public health to allow their strategic planning process to degenerate into short-term, operational management. The temptation is great in light of pressing current problems. However, the danger of not thinking strategically about the future and of failing to attempt to position the organization in such a way as to take advantage of its strengths and minimize the adverse consequences of its weaknesses can be catastrophic. An attempt is made to illustrate how one state department of public health attempted to ensure that strategic thinking remained a part of its strategic planning process. The process was built around the energizing of the expertise present in the department and the mobilization of resources under the direction of the State Health Officer. The process is ongoing and is constantly fine tuned. However, the procedure utilized can be adapted easily to the unique circumstances facing most public health organizations. © 1992 The Society of Public Health.